Carrie Underwood has never been shy about her Christian faith. Her first full single, after all, was “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” It was a huge country hit, but it was also a top 5 hit on the Christian Songs chart. With that in mind, the religious nature of her new single “Something in the Water” shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is a bit unexpected, though, considering the current climate of the country music industry. “Bro country” has been dominating the country airwaves for a few years now, in part meaning that songs by women have had a tough time finding an audience. Underwood is one of the few females who can consistently generate hits, and with “Something in the Water” she is sending a clear message that there is more to sing about than dirt roads, hometowns, and alcohol.
Country radio has been unfriendly (if not bitter) to female voices as of late. Not only have female artists struggled to find radio support, but meaningful songs about females (even from a male voice) have been few and far between. The release of Underwood’s new single could be perfect timing since all trends are cyclical. Can “Something in the Water” help re-assert a more female – and a more religious – voice at country radio? That remains to be seen. It’s a fact, though, that “Something in the Water” is overtly religious in its lyrical theme. It’s not a song that is focused on a story where faith is a by-product or where the Bible gets a stock reference. With overt references to baptism and the inclusion of “Amazing Grace,” there is no doubt “Something in the Water” is a worship song.
Whether intentional or not, the lyrics referring to a wasted life but then breaking into “Amazing Grace” easily hold a subtext about the wasteful songs on radio and how there needs to be an embrace of songs with a deeper, abiding meaning. Having said all of that, the lyrics aren’t overly insightful, and some of the lines are fairly basic; for instance, the rhyme of “grace” and “face” is more Katy Perry than Katherine Porter.
“Something in the Water” has unaffected, mid-tempo production also more in line with Christian music than classic country (there is banjo, but it’s not mixed prominently). Guitars are placed at the forefront, and the undercurrent of the song is a Coldplay-lite piano line that is used to nice effect when the production drops out entering the chorus. Toward the end of the track, a gospel choir comes in to sing “Amazing Grace.” As always, though, Underwood’s vocals are what shine through over everything else. For the most part, her vocal on this song has real clarity and strength. It’s also nice to hear Underwood use her head voice, as she does at the start of the chorus when the instruments back out. Little of this suggests mainstream crossover success, and thus the single is another reminder that Carrie never actively sought mainstream popularity.
“Something in the Water” is a new single off of Underwood’s upcoming greatest hits set, which has the tag line of “Decade #1.” The song is a representation of Underwood as a person. It’s also a full circle moment for Underwood to return to a similar theme to the debut single that proved she was a voice – and a commercial force – with whom to be reckoned. That fact is heightened by the story being told in first person as opposed to the third person story-telling with which she began her career.